Sunday, 9 May 2010

Walter Spencer-Jones

The passing of Walter leaves a gap in many people’s lives. He was a husband to Margaret; brother of Arnold and Norah; father to Owen, Peter and Nigel; grandfather of Michael, Becky, Vicky, Roger, Christopher, Martin and Rosemary and great grandfather of Alastair, Ellie, Ben, Oliver, Toby, Edward and Sebastian. Other more distant family members were also close to him. He was proud of his family’s achievements in everything they did and was a voracious correspondent with all the family both in the UK, Africa and the USA.

The son of Welsh headmaster and a Lancastrian mother Walter was born in Lancashire during the First World War. On leaving school he joined the local bank, in the days when banking was a respected profession! His career started when the local District Bank manager said “What's the young lad going to do? ... send him along to me” and finished with early retirement (due to poor health) from the position of Trustee Manager at Lancaster.

It’s hard to imagine him as a young man shinning up the gas lamps in the street to light his cigarette... This was during the tough 1930s and several of his siblings emigrated to Southern Africa in search of a better life.

Margaret and Walter were married on Armistice day 1939 and were able to celebrate there 70th anniversary last November.

During the Second World War, due to a combination of medical history and banking background, Walter served in the Pay Corps in the UK. At one point he took a demotion so he could be posted near his family after the birth of the first of 3 sons. He quickly regained his rank and reached the highest NCO level. After the war he worked very hard to get the necessary qualifications to eventually become manager of a bank. Many ex colleagues have good memories of working with him and being mentored in their own careers.
Walter was always in control of his affairs (without being overtly so) and liked to make decisions quickly and decisively. This remained so right up to his recent stroke and it was sad that afterwards it was hard to convince him that things were being well looked after on his behalf.

One of these decisions, which exemplifies the deep and sound relationship he had with Margaret relates to “Peggy's  Hairdressers”. The income from his job was insufficient for their requirements so the hairdressing business was bought and many hours of work put in to bring it up to a reasonable standard. Margaret's unsocial hours of work meant that a lot of domestic chores were left to Walter and his cooking is  well remembered by his “boys”.  This input continued through his retirement.

His “boys” also have happy memories of car and caravan trips as youngsters towing the caravan around in the days before motorways, these include:
·      The first trip to the Lake District in a 1937 Austin 14 (named the War Horse), driving up Red Bank from Langdale to Grasmere - Margaret had to hold the gear lever in place whilst the boys got out and walked.
·      Holiday trips from Manchester to Falmouth (400 miles each way) in the War Horse, a two-day affair in those days, with Peter logging the trip at an average of nearly 30 mph!
·      Being stopped for speeding with the caravan (30 mph was the limit then)
·      Driving off on the first trip with the 'van behind the big Austin Princess to find the wheels smoking - the van brakes had been left on!
·      Breaking down on Lancaster's Skerton bridge on a busy, congested, Bank Holiday, holding up all the traffic and then being pushed off with the assistance of a policeman
·      Leading traffic on a 'short cut' to avoid congestion and finishing up in a cul-de-sac with all the cars behind.

His sons grew up and left home and he took early retirement to his weekend cottage in Dumfries and Galloway. This would be a place of happy memories for his grandchildren to come and visit. Most of his siblings had emigrated to South Africa or Rhodesia and, once he retired, many trips were made to visit them and the nieces and nephews who lived out there. 

He will also be remembered for his enjoyment of the Telegraph crossword (sometimes done without writing the answers down) and for the way he sliced his bread precisely and horizontally. Walter was enthusiastic about the research being conducted for the family tree.

His close brother Arnold and his sister Norah are unable to be with us today, due to geography or age as are many other relations and friends. They are all in our thoughts today.

We will all miss you, Walter, Dad, Grandpa, Great Grandpa but the lovely memories will always remain of a firm, fair, ever-loving Gentleman.


Written by Peter and Becky with contributions from Nigel 


  1. thank you very much for the secret post parcel - April - you sent me. Sorry I did not thank you before but one of my sister's has been diagnosed with breast cancer and I have been helping her with her baby, just got back home and was cheered up by your lovely envie.
    Thank you again and have a great week!

  2. What a beautiful post about your Grandfather who sounds wonderful. May he rest in peace.

    I LOVE the wedding photograph of your grandparents too. Your Grandma's wedding dress was absolutely stunning! Truly gorgeous now let alone back then.

  3. Granny hardly ever wears trousers even now. Some elegant photos of her through the years.


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